I'm trying to analyse the verb brought (or bring) in terms of lexical aspect, or aktionsart. More accurately, it's an analysis of the Hungarian verb "hozta" (bring-3sg.pst.def).

Would it be telic (and therefore an accomplishment), as it clearly has a definite object (the thing being brought); and I assume that to 'bring' something, there is an end point to which you will stop bringing it and instead be depositing/gifting/offering/leaving it at the place? My intuition says that the bringing to x goal is contextual and implied; not inherent in the semantics of the verb; and therefore atelic and an activity. But then my intuition tends to be a bit wishy-washy, and I'm apt to change my mind.

What are people's thoughts?

  • 1
    If you're analysing the Hungarian word specifically, you'd probably be best off asking a native speaker (if you aren't one) - the Hungarian word's telicity may not align with that of its English translation. There may be some sentences that could be set up to test this (i.e. how does it work with imperfect/progressive, and so on), though Hungarian grammar may not be kind enough to give you a nice clear test :P
    – Sjiveru
    Jun 27 '13 at 17:39
  • One way you could distinguish between an accomplishment and an activity analysis is by looking at scopal ambiguities with an adverb like "almost". An accomplishment should give rise to ambiguity with "almost" like so: (a) Jake almost built a house. Can mean: (i) Jake almost began the process of building a house or (ii) The house jake was building almost reached completion. Activities are unambiguous, i.e. (b) The leaves almost fluttered in the wind. So, is this ambiguous? (c) Jake almost brought Susan to the party. Can this mean that Jake began the process of bringing her?
    – P Elliott
    Aug 12 '13 at 21:22
  • My intuitions are rather hazy about (c) (above), but it definitely receives an accomplishment interpretation when the source is explicitly realised. Note how clear the ambiguity is with this sentence: (d) Jake almost brought Susan from her house to the party.
    – P Elliott
    Aug 12 '13 at 21:33
  • hozta means "s/he brought it". It's 3rd person singular past tense, and it's definite: it implies an object. Regarding telicity, if this technical term means that the action is finished, in that case hozta does not imply anything about this. There are some prefixes called igekötő which can modify verbs in a semi-predictable manner. When using some of these, they might additionally imply that the action is finished. E.g. to imply that "he has brought it", I'd say elhozta. Another example behozta means that "he has brought it in". The main meaning of be is in, but it ...
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 19 '14 at 19:46
  • ... also implies that the action is finished, even though this is not the primary meaning of be. Native speaker here.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 19 '14 at 19:49

I'm no expert, but a native speaker. Please excuse me for the lack of terminology, but Hungarian doesn't really adhere to the Nominative/Accusative/Dative/Genitive division.

The root is "hoz" (ő hoz = he/she brings), the "nominative" or "basic" form is "hozni" (to bring)

t is the general sign of the past tense. (Hungarian really has only one past tense, excluding some tenses used in regional dialects)

If you use ta it means it refers to the specific thing (hozta a levelet = he/she brought the letter vs. hozott egy levelet = he/she brought a letter)

Note that the basic form would be the non-specific, "hozott", where the vowel is only there to make it more "musical", because "hozt" would feel funny, and so it's some kind of exception. Generally the unspecific form just adds a t and nothing else, like in válaszol -> válaszolt -> válaszolta = answer -> answered (general) -> answered (specific)

About being telic/altelic

there is an end point to which you will stop bringing it and instead be depositing/gifting/offering/leaving it at the place

it's really hard to say, as Hungarian does not make the same distinction as for example English between past simple and past perfect, past continuous, etc. In English and German, if you have compound sentences, you have to take care whether the action in the first sentence already finished when the second started or not. In Hungarian, there is no such thing, there is only one past tense (and only one future tense which is not really a future tense at all). All the complicity in other parts of the language are a little bit diminished by the very very simple tense rules.

Note: there is a past tense to indicate an action very distant in the past, in this tense it would be hozá, or indicating an even more distant past hozá vala but this tense is quite archaic and not generally used except in some regional dialects.


For additional fun, try to analyze hozhattátok = you (plural) could have brought it

Edit 2 (telicity)

Just hozta does not necessarily mean that the action is finished. It might have been interrupted. So if someone interrupted me when I was bringing something, then I was not able to actually bring it.

Using meghozta means that the action is finished. (But it's still the same tense). The prefix meg- in front of any verb accentuates that the action is completed. However, to compare it to the German "machen -> gemacht" would be, in my opinion, a mistake, because in German there was a change in tenses. Its role is very similar to other prefixes, just like felhozta, elhozta, behozta, which mean brought it up, brought it here, brought it in, respectively, which are obviously finished acts. The meg- just indicates its "finishedness", without specifying "here", "there", "up", or "down", etc.

Using the Wikipedia example, "John built a house in a month." vs. "John built houses for a month.", in Hungarian it is incorrect to use hozta with a formulation like "in an hour". You have to use meghozta or some other prefix. You can use hozta only in the context of "for an hour", and meghozta, elhozta etc. only in the context of "in an hour". So it seems telicity is inherent of the verb itself, not like in English where in both cases you use "built" and the context decides.

So, from this example, hozta on its own would be atelic. You would need a prefix to indicate that the action is completed. The prefix can be separated from the word under certain circumstances, but it would still have to be in the sentence to indicate that it's an accomplished action.

  • Bernard Comrie (I think) provided a test for telicity in English. Example: make a chair - I started making a chair, but I was interrupted. - Have I made a chair? (in the sense, is there a tangible result of the action?) - No -> make a chair is telic, but applying the test to work for example shows that work is not telic. Can this test be applied in Hungarian?
    – robert
    Aug 12 '13 at 18:25
  • It is possible to express this same thing in Hungarian, but not by applying different tenses. What would be the telic example in English, as a comparison? A distinction in Hungarian might be hozta vs. meghozta. They both mean the same thing, but meghozta accentuates that the action is over, while in the case of hozta the action might or might not have been interrupted. So you could say that meghozta is telic and hozta is not telic, but I did not see this term (telic) used in Hungaruan, I can't even find it in a dictionary.
    – vsz
    Aug 12 '13 at 19:12
  • 1
    @vsz Wikipedia gives a brief outline of telicity. Aug 13 '13 at 2:48
  • @vsz, 'telic' is a linguistic term - I doubt that speakers of any language without a background in linguistics use it in the linguistic sense, so it's not in the dictionary. Comrie's test does not rely on tenses. make a chair is telic because if you start making a chair and you're interrupted, you haven't made a chair. But if you start thinking about something and you're interrupted then you have thought about it because think is not telic. Would this test make sense if applied to hozta and meghozta?
    – robert
    Aug 13 '13 at 8:36
  • @robert : Thanks for the clarification, I inserted the reply in the answer.
    – vsz
    Aug 13 '13 at 14:41

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